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Why businesses struggle to unlock value from their data

22 Jun 2020

Article by Cohesity A/NZ managing director Steve Coad.

Data has become a critical component for businesses in every sector, yet many struggle when it comes to extracting full value from it.

This is an odd situation when you consider just how powerful data can be. Used effectively, it can guide corporate strategies, improve levels of customer service, and add directly to the bottom line. Indeed, according to research by the US-based Boston Consulting Group, the combination of data and advanced analytics could unlock more than $US 1 trillion in new value this year alone.

Unfortunately, however, unlocking this value from data is proving something of a challenge. This is because a large proportion of data held within organisations is stored (or even trapped) in infrastructure silos located both on-premises and in cloud-based platforms. This situation not only means the data difficult to manage, but it also makes deriving value from the data very complex.

Recent research has highlighted the extent of the challenge. A report by Vanson Bourne, commissioned by Cohesity, found 85% of Australian businesses store data between two and five public clouds. Some 44% of businesses use six or more tools to attempt to manage these fragmented sources while one in 10 make use of 11 or more management solutions. That’s hardly efficient.
 
Reactive rather than proactive

This is not a situation that has occurred overnight. Indeed, for years many organisations have taken a piecemeal approach to backing up, storing, analysing, and attempting to manage data.

Extra resources – both human and infrastructure, often in the form of pricey legacy hardware products -- have been added to solve a particular problem or issue short-term with little thought being given to a long-term, company-wide data management strategy. This has led to widespread data fragmentation and increasing management overheads. 

Data fragmentation also has an impact on data quality and reliability. Staff often find there are multiple versions of files stored in different locations and are unsure which one is up to date. Getting the elusive ‘single version of the truth’ is little more than a dream for many people.

This problem is particularly acute when it comes to data held in things such as backups, archives, file shares and object stores. While it’s easy to overlook the value of this data, when made available and used intelligently, it can actually add further significant value for an organisation.

Tackling the data fragmentation challenge

Responsibility for tackling the challenge posed by data fragmentation is not something that rests only with an organisation’s IT department – it’s an issue that is, or should become, a boardroom conversation.  Organisations that figure out how to address this challenge will have a distinct competitive advantage over those that don’t. Data may the most important digital asset to any organisation, but that’s only the case when businesses can effectively manage it and harness its value. 

Data fragmentation is also a challenge when it comes to compliance with regulations such as Europe’s GDPR legislation and Australia’s data breach notification requirements. If you don’t know where data is stored, how can you be confident it is in compliance with government regulations? No company wants to face harsh fines, or worse, damage to brand reputations because they aren’t seen as good stewards of data. 

Solving these challenges requires a different approach to data management. Better methods must be found for storing, managing, protecting and deriving value from the vast volumes of enterprise data that exists within companies.

Deploying modern software-defined infrastructure brings these disparate elements together and, finally, makes managing vast arrays of data actually manageable.  Indeed, a  successful combination of technology and improved human behaviour can deliver significant, bottom-line improvements.

Delivering real business value

Having a lack of control of data results in more than just missed opportunities. It also has a detrimental impact on everything from strategic planning and corporate agility to customer experience and competitiveness in the wider market. Businesses that can’t (or won’t) address the issue risk facing significant disadvantages that could impact their revenues, operations, and customer experiences for many years. 

To ensure data delivers real business value in as many ways as possible a holistic approach is needed that covers management, backup, and protection. By taking the required steps now, businesses will ensure they are best placed to capitalise on fresh opportunities as they arise in the future.

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